How Marcia Cross Brought Her Scheming ‘Desperate Housewives’ Energy to Netflix’s ‘You’

·5 min read
Photo Illustration by Kristen Hazzard/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Kristen Hazzard/The Daily Beast/Getty

Marcia Cross was not exactly enamored with Netflix’s You when she first discovered her husband watching it. “I was like, ‘Oh, he’s just watching some guy prey on beautiful women—I don’t know if I’m interested,” the Desperate Housewives star told The Daily Beast during a recent interview. But then she started watching and, like Joe Goldberg himself, became a little bit obsessed.

When the opportunity arose to join the show as a guest star, the veteran actress seized her moment. “I actually put myself on tape for it,” she said. “It wasn’t a very big part, but I wanted it.”

Alongside her scene partner, Scott Speedman, Cross quickly became one of this season’s most exciting guest stars after a trailer revealed that the onetime Bree Van de Kamp would mix with Joe Goldberg and Love Quinn (now Quinn-Goldberg) in Madre Linda—this season’s fictional Northern Californian suburb. She plays Jean, a no-nonsense lawyer tasked with preventing Speedman’s obsessive character Matthew from getting himself thrown in jail for, among other things, cyberstalking the entire town.

Netflix’s ‘You’ Is Sharper, Funnier, and More Brutal Than Ever in Season 3

“We didn't want her character to feel like a throw-away because she feels like such an important window into Matthew’s inner life,” said You showrunner Sera Gamble. Given the crucial role Jean plays in Matthew’s story and downward spiral, she added, “We needed somebody good... and I think what that does is creates a lot of gravitas in the scenes between her and Scott. ”

As Jean, Cross plays her scenes with an arch humor that fans of her previous work—which, in addition to Marc Cherry’s ABC show on Wisteria Lane, includes playing Dr. Linda Abbott on Everwood and Kimberly Shaw on Melrose Place—are all too familiar with. Greg Berlanti, who co-created You with Gamble, also created Everwood—which made Cross’s You appearance something of a reunion as well. Cross called the executive producer “a prince among men,” and recalled an extremely well-timed thank you email he sent once her guest spot wrapped.

“I did the show and I got food poisoning,” Cross said with a laugh. “I was home alone, my family was gone, I had the most horrible day—and in the middle of that I had a lovely email from him. Little did he know, he pulled me out of my horrible sickness.”

In an ironic twist, Cross never got to meet Badgley while working on the show, and only once did she cross paths with Victoria Pedretti. (Probably for the best, she said, to prevent her from getting “too fan-y.”) But she and Speedman, the beloved Felicity alum and fan-favorite guest star on Grey’s Anatomy among many other roles, got along swimmingly: “He is intense, committed, passionate about his work—everything I love in an actor,” Cross said.

Appearing on the series also gave Cross a greater appreciation for Badgley and Pedretti’s work as Joe Goldberg and Love Quinn—a couple diabolical enough to hold their own on Wisteria Lane. “They make it look easy but it’s not easy,” Cross said. “I’ve kind of played in that world before, so I know—you have to be so good... You have to be so committed to the character and the job at hand.”

It’s been 17 years since Desperate Housewives first premiered, and some fans have still not given up hope for a reboot. But both Cross and Cherry have rebuffed the idea. It’s not that Cross had a bad experience making the show—which she called a blast, a gift, and a joy. “I’m very lucky and I’m very grateful for that show and all the wonderful people on it—just the whole thing,” she said, adding that she and her fellow castmates have kept in touch over the years.

But as Cherry recently pointed out, the series already aired more than 150 episodes—which feels like a pretty complete story already.

“Nobody remembers that!” Cross said of the astronomical episode count. “We worked non-stop—and what that means is those writers work non-stop. I mean, they mined everything they possibly could. So I think when Mark says that, that’s part of it. Can you imagine writing that many episodes, eight years’ worth?”

Cross has some ideas about what she’d like to do in the future, but she’s also being careful not to rule anything out. Her guest spot on You, she said, has made her hungry to work more—“to get in there and go full-tilt, really.”

“I would love to be playing the kind of characters like what I did on this,” she said. At the same time, however, “There’s so many great shows right now... I think I’ve always been surprised by where my career has taken me so I have a feeling that’s what will happen again with whatever I do next.”

Cross is cooking up a production of her own as well—one that would find her behind the camera writing and producing. “As I’ve gotten older, you know, your scope gets broader,” she said. “I have a sort of passion project I’m working on.”

And for now? “Let’s just say this: If Penn Badgley’s character wants to fall for an older woman, I’m in.”

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